By Sharon Franke for Food Network Kitchen
When you walk into the kitchen in the morning for that first cup of coffee or in the evening to prep dinner, you want to be greeted by a nice clean countertop. Keeping your countertops pristine doesn’t have to be difficult. Whether you’re looking to remove sticky peanut butter and jelly, grime from grocery bags or potential contaminates from raw proteins, here’s our advice for banishing dirt, streaks, stains, and germs from every type of kitchen countertop.
Dos and Don’ts to Keep Countertops in Good Condition — No Matter What Material You Have
Don’t cut directly on a countertop to avoid scratches, nicks, and even worse, gashes. Keep a generously sized cutting board at the ready that will give you plenty of room for knife work.
Don’t let dirty pots, pans, and dishes linger on the countertop as they can lead to stains, especially if they contained ingredients like tomato, wine, curry, and mustard.
Do use a spoon rest or small plate to hold whisks, spatulas, and other cooking utensils between uses.
Do clean up spills and smudges right after they happen when they’re easy to wipe up without scrubbing and are less likely to stain.
Do be careful with cans, especially if the surface is wet. If you have to leave a can on your countertop, place a paper towel underneath to prevent a rust ring.
Don’t use paint removers, oven cleaners, or other strong chemicals on countertops.
Cleaning Basics for All Types of Countertops
Start by washing the countertop with a sponge and soapy water and then rinsing it off. Dishwashing detergent is just fine. Then, using a microfiber cloth, take a few seconds to dry off the surface to prevent streaks and blotches. Just about every company that manufactures or sells countertops emphasizes that you don’t need anything but soap and water for regular maintenance. They also advise against using abrasive cleaners of any type.
If you use any cleaner, even one specifically intended for the material out of which your countertops are fabricated, test it in a small out-of-the-way spot before you apply it to a large area.
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How to Clean Laminate (Formica)
You can use a multipurpose cleaner like those offered by Clorox, Lysol, Mr. Clean, and Method on Formica countertops, but avoid ones that contain bleach. Don’t skip the rinse and dry steps. When you rinse off, be especially careful not to flood the laminate, particularly near the seams; you don’t want any water to seep underneath and cause swelling.
To get rid of a stubborn stain, apply a paste made of baking soda and warm water and allow it to sit on the spot for 5 to 10 minutes or longer, then gently rub it into the stain.
Disinfect a laminate surface by using an antibacterial spray but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow the solution to sit on the surface for the time recommended on the label before rinsing it off.
How to Clean Granite
Just soap and water should do the trick to clean most messes from a granite countertop. Avoid vinegar, lemon juice, ammonia, bleach, and glass cleaners like Windex or Glass Plus. Over time, these substances can dull and remove the sealant that’s always applied to granite countertops.
Tackle any lingering stains with a mixture of baking soda and water.
If you want to sanitize the surface, apply undiluted isopropyl alcohol. It’s a good idea to add it to a spray bottle to make it easy to spritz on.
How to Clean Quartz (Cambria, Caeserstone, and Silestone)
Again, use soap and water to start. Don’t use bleach or any products that contain it. Also avoid glass cleaners like Windex.
To remove stains, cover them with a paste made from baking soda or Barkeepers Friend and allow it to sit for several minutes before rubbing in a circular motion.
Isopropyl alcohol is your best bet for sanitizing a quartz surface.
How to Clean a Solid Surface (Corian)
For blotches or stains that you can’t get out with a cleaner, use Soft Scrub and apply in a circular motion.
How to Clean Soapstone
To maintain its finish and avoid damage forgo vinegar, citrus, bleach, ammonia, or any harsh chemical cleaners.
Occasionally, rub in a very light coating of mineral oil.
How to Clean Wood or Butcher Block Countertops
Before cleaning a wood countertop, you may need to scrape off any gunk with a metal dough scraper.
After washing and rinsing, spray the surface with undiluted white vinegar or a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach and 1 cup water and allow it to sit for a few minutes to disinfect the surface.
To remove spots, sprinkle salt on the area and then scrub it with the cut side of a lemon. Keep in mind that you may never be able to restore a wood countertop to as pristine a condition as you can other surfaces. You might as well embrace the imperfect look of a well-used surface.
How to Clean Stainless Steel
Avoid bleach cleaners. Barkeepers Friend is a great cleaner for stainless steel; combine it with water to make a paste to remove stains. Just be sure to rinse off thoroughly to get rid of any residue.
Once you have rinsed and dried stainless steel, rub in a very light coating of mineral oil which will help it resist streaks, smudges, and fingerprints. Pro tip: A light application of mineral oil will also work wonders on your stainless-steel fridge.
How to Clean Marble
Only use soap and water to clean marble. Avoid vinegar, lemon juice, and bleach which can eat at the stone.
To get rid of stains, allow a baking soda water paste to sit on the spot overnight.
You can sanitize the surface with a spritz of isopropyl alcohol.
Sharon Franke has been testing and writing about kitchen equipment for over 30 years. Before becoming a cooking tools expert, she spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants. In her free time, she’s busy baking sourdough bread and rustling pots and pans on her own stove.